Short-term past is the best predictor of short-term future

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You can go to the best fortuneteller in the world, and it’s still impossible to predict the long-term future. Nobody knows what will happen in 10 years’ time, even less what life has prepared for you or for anyone else for that matter.

There are just too many variables. Your values change over time, you have no idea where the global flows will turn and what kind of life opportunities or tragedies will test your character.

That’s why long-term planning is very ineffective. Any detailed planning for more than a year ahead is useless in most cases. You can’t predict where you’ll be in 5 years, 10 years and even less so in 30 years.

The more fixed your mindset is about how your life should unfold, the more disappointed you will probably be. And big disappointments lead to big pain. That’s why the best approach to the future is to trust yourself that you’ll adjust accordingly to whatever happens.

Consequently, the more reasonable approach to long-term planning is to have a life vision – you have a list of things you want to experience in life, but at the same time stay very flexible about when and how you will experience those things.

And if you manage to bring more than half of the things on your vision list to life, that’s more than enough. In the end, there are so many different experiences that life offers.

You mustn’t be too egotistic and stubborn about your future, but instead constantly adjust bit by bit to the external forces and find a way to surrender to the river of life, while still following your true north.

Surrendering is not about being indifferent or passive, far from it. It’s about maximizing your current life quality and happiness. There’s always a way to find an intersection between your goals and what life has to offer. That’s always a move forward you can make.

The long-term future is a complete mystery. But with short-term planning and predicting, we can definitely be more confident and optimistic.

You can play a fortuneteller at least to some extent when it comes to the near future. Are you wondering how? The best way to predict the short-term future is to look at your (or anyone else’s) short-term history.

How people thought future will look like

How people thought future will look like

Analyze your short-term past and you’ll know more than any fortuneteller

Take a pen and a piece of paper, choose a few core life areas (health, wealth, relationships etc.) along with a few life metrics (net worth, savings, body fat percentage, number of close friends etc.) and analyze them for the past 2 – 3 months.

What kind of decisions did you make, big or small, and what kind of behavioral patterns did you follow?

That’s the closest prediction you’ll get for your next 2 – 3 months. Here are a few examples of questions you can use for the exercise:

  • Did you save any money in the past 2 – 3 months?
  • Did your fat percentage go up or down?
  • How many times per week did you exercise on average in the past few months?
  • How much time did you spend with the people you love?
  • How many books have you read in the past 3 months?
  • How many times did you smile?
  • What kind of posture did you have most of the time?
  • How many hours per week did you watch TV?

Now you probably know where this is going. If you made zero trips to the gym in the past 3 months, you’re probably not going to go to the gym in the next three months. If you’re getting fat, you’ll probably continue to get fatter in the time to come. If you haven’t saved any money in the past few months, there is only a small probability you’ll save it in the near future.

Short-term behavioral patterns and near-past decisions are the best predictors for the short-term future. And it’s quite simple.

Stupid decisions and bad habits lead to a poor future. Smart decisions and healthy habits lead to a bright future.

There are always trends present for all areas of your life, and you must fight to make sure the trends are going in the right direction most of the time.

Short-term past is the best predictor of short-term future

Old habits die hard, that’s why short-term can predict short-term future

As we said, the only way you can predict anything with a relatively high accuracy is if you have a long and stable history. But there is one more very important element.

The longer and the more stable the history, the more accurately can you forecast the short-term future; and you can also have a better general sense of how the long-term future could look like, unless some disruptive changes happen.

That’s why big established companies have a much easier job preparing short-term and long‑term plans than startups do. But don’t be fooled, even big companies are not immune to wrong long-term predictions.

Like Nokia, most established companies sooner or later experience big setbacks, crashes and with them unexpected market trends and new enemies. That happens especially when big corporations don’t know how to adjust. And trust me, it’s hard to be big and flexible at the same time.

It’s very similar in personal life. The longer and more stable the history, the easier it is to predict the short-term future.

If somebody never ever exercised in their life, there’s a big probability they won’t start tomorrow. If a person never saved a penny in their lifetime, you can have great doubts that they will in the future. And if somebody cheated on all their previous partners, why would you be the exception?

In the same way, you can play with seasonal predictions.

For example, I exercise outdoors much more in the summer than in the winter. I tend to gain some fat during the winter. There is a minimum amount of income I have to earn to save money. And with age, human needs tend to change.

But in general, things stay the same in a short time period. You probably know the saying that old habits die hard or that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. These proverbs do hold great life wisdom.

Look at someone’s past and the more obvious and stable it is, the more confident you can be about their future; and the same goes for your future.

Nevertheless, you have to make sure you don’t get too confident in your predictions. Because people can change or, even more often, life kicks them in the butt and they are forced to adopt new behavioral patterns (people usually out of inspiration or desperation) .

History repeats itself, unless you do something

Behavioral patterns have the tendency to repeat themselves, and consequently they have a great influence on one’s destiny. But luckily you have the power to change your behavioral patterns at any time.

You can start making smarter decisions with your next one. And you can do it out of inspiration, desperation or purely by growing tired of a life strategy that doesn’t bring you any results.

That’s the greatest personal power you have, now and forever. At any time, you can stop with negative habits or reinforce the healthy ones. At any time, you can start making better decisions. That’s the personal power you possess to make history.

From tomorrow on you can:

  • Start saving 10 % of your income every month
  • Keep your food intake in a moderate caloric deficit
  • Take enough time for yourself and exercise two or three times per week
  • Spend an hour or two with people you love every day, without any distractions
  • Read at least one page of a book before you go to sleep
  • Smile at every person you meet

If you’re not doing these things yet, that’s how you’ll turn your life around. You have the power to make sure your short-term future doesn’t look like your short-term past, if it’s a negative one.

Remember that the hard road gets easy with time, and the easy road gets hard. That’s the surest long-term prediction that can ever be made.

Nokia CEO quote

Unpredictable external forces

You have the power to change your habits and thus reshape your destiny. But at the same time, you’re also greatly influenced by all the external forces – your environment.

The environment is a very important part of your destiny’s equation. And you (or anyone else for that matter) have a somewhat limited influence on the environment. That’s why it’s so hard to predict the long-term future.

  • You might meet an old buddy who will convince you to start going to the gym tomorrow
  • You might get ill, and then take extraordinary care of your health
  • Someone in your life might die and the experience might completely reshape your values
  • There might be a raise waiting for you at your job, and then you decide to save the surplus, even though you might never have done that before
  • Or you might lose a job and start your own business

There are so many forces beyond your control, it’s impossible to know what will happen in the long-term future. You know the saying: if you want to make God laugh, make a (long-term) plan.

Life has so many tools for changing your life path. You can get inspired, experience a life collapse, find yourself in a completely new environment, get an unexpected offer, experience unexpected loss or even meet the love of your life on the other side of the planet.

You aren’t completely powerless in these kind of situations, but your power is limited. With hard and smart work, you can increase the number of good things that can happen to you.

You always have the power to let unexpected positive influences into your life and to reject all the bad forces. And in the end, you can always adjust and find your next best move.

Resistance means being inflexible by default. So, don’t resist, but rather adjust. And when life gives you a hard time, you can always reframe it in a more positive way or find a more redemptive narrative.

Your greatest power is to always look at things from the bright side, to find the positive in the negative. That’s how you can deal with unexpected external forces. Don’t try to predict them, adjust to them.

Where is your personal history leading you?

As we said, short-term history is a very good predictor of short-term future. Do a very extensive analysis of how your past decisions and behavioral patterns led you to the point in your life where you are at this particular moment.

Then ask yourself where your current behavioral patterns and decisions are going to lead you in a month, a few months’ time, one year’s time or even further ahead.

The choices you make today have an impact on your life for years. Thus, make sure you make the right choices, make sure your short-term history is leading you into a bright short-term future.

And in the long term you’ll do just fine if you live by a smart life strategy, follow healthy habits, make smart decisions and last, but not least, if you properly adjust to all the experiences that life has prepared for you.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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